Editorial: Is Nintendo Playing Things Too Safe Socially?
By Jonathan Balofsky On 4 Nov, 2017 At 09:51 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, News, NINTENDO, Opinion, ROG News | With 1 Comment


Last week I wrote an editorial about when it is appropriate for games to be political. Today I want to look at another side of the debate, namely if Nintendo is playing things too safe when it comes to politics.


To begin with, Nintendo obviously should not put politics into a game like Mario, as it is just a poor fit for that series. However, Nintendo has several other series where politics would make sense, such as Fire Emblem for example. Nintendo has said that they do not want political statements in their games, but some can argue that is a political statement in itself. Nintendo has actually dabbled into deeper messages in games like Pokémon at times, but not very deep. Is Nintendo truly trying to keep things for everyone, or are they just playing things far too safe politically?

A game like Advance Wars for example, would be a good place to discuss deeper issues of war and society. Nintendo has made a darker and edgier entry in the series, but it isn’t exactly what I mean. The thing is, a political message doesn’t need to be beat over someone’s head over and over again, but can be told subtly and through actions. Nintendo could also go deeper into themes previously seen in the DS era Pokémon games about the nature of the world of Pokémon and how the relationship between people and Pokémon can be cruel  at the hands of certain trainers, while others are truly good people.

Again, Nintendo should obviously not put politics into things like Mario and Splatoon, and even Zelda doesn’t feel like a good fit. But Nintendo’s RPGs and games like Fatal Frame ( Which Nintendo co-owns) are a good place to discuss deeper issues. Fatal Frame in particular is a good place, since horror games are a good place to discuss themes of humanity and darker issues. Even Metroid, if it should follow up on the plot of Metroid Fusion one day, will need to delve into more serious issues alongside the game. Given that story in a Metroid game is a controversial issue in itself, it would need to be told via log entries and such, but it could be one of the most interesting games made.

Obviously Nintendo is in a difficult position given their Japanese roots, but given their audience in America, and that many games are made with a western audience in mind, some might argue Nintendo has an opportunity or even a responsibility. In the end, I leave it up to you all to decide if this is something Nintendo should address. Do you feel they should tackle these issues? Or should they stay the path they are on?





Disclaimer: The above is the opinion solely of the author and not necessarily that of Real Otaku Gamer or its staff.

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  1. Jessica Brown says:

    This is kind of a tough one to answer, but you really do make some valid points.

    On one hand, Nintendo was a pioneer of having a female character as the protagonist for a major game, with Samus being the lead in the original Metroid. I think they did it in such a way as to make you think a bit too, since back then people generally assumed Samus was a man until they saw for themselves at the end. It just challenged perceptions in a way.

    Yet, when it comes to getting political (or social), there’s always a bit of a risk involved. As you pointed out, some types of games just don’t really lend themselves to that sort of thing. While something like Wolfenstein II serving as a commentary on Nazism and Fascism makes sense, using a carefree world like that of Mario for a purpose like that would be, frankly, weird and off-putting. Yet, that’s not to say that a whimsical world like Mario’s couldn’t be used for some positive social commentary, like introducing an LGBTQ character into the mix in a way that made sense and was tastefully done.

    I actually think Zelda could certainly be a universe where you could put in some light political or social justice messages if you wanted, but you’d just have to be careful how you did it. In a way, when you start to think deeply about the plot of some of the games, you already have incidents where the game is telling you about the dangers of blindly following the promises of others, such as all the characters that have been duped and corrupted by Ganon’s influence over the years. I’ve wondered in the case of Zelda about the wider world the games take place in, and perhaps it would be possible to show some more of the neighboring nations and deal with more political topics, such as corrupted regimes or military states. Again, it would be different and it’d have to be done right, but it could be interesting.

    Metroid seems like a perfect fit for this type of stuff, particularly when it might come to corollary sources like log entries or historical documents pertaining to federation worlds and the government as a whole. Maybe we would learn more about the period prior to the federation and the struggles to unify into a more united force, or perhaps we’ll soon learn more about the more military-focused segment of the Chozo people that are alluded to in the new Metroid II remake on the 3DS. And certainly, putting socially-forward ideas works just fine in a franchise set thousands of years into the future.

    Anyway, those are just my thoughts on the matter!

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